1. Named for the Chianti region in Tuscany, Italy, this sturdy, dry red wine was once instantly recognizable by its squat, straw-covered bottles (fiaschi). However, Chiantiparticularly the better brandsis now more often found in the traditional Bordeaux-type bottle. Only a few vintners use the straw-based bottle, which today usually designates a cheaper (and often inferior) product. In Italy, Chianti has long been made from four or five grape varieties, Trebbiano and Malvasia being two of them. Today, however, the cabernet sauvignon grape is being added to some Chianti blends. The word Riserva on the label indicates that the wine is of superior quality and has been aged in oak for at least 3 years before being bottled. Labels indicating "Chianti Classico" refer to the central and original (dating back to the 14th century) growing area from which the grapes came. Chianti's bold flavor is particularly suited to highly seasoned foods. 2. A generic name used for rather ordinary, inexpensive red wine made outside of Italy in countries like Argentina and the United States. The grape varieties that go into such wines are varied and unregulated.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.